Sunday, 4 November 2012

'Sweet Jesu, king of bliss'

This is a charming fourteenth-century poem, one of the Harley lyrics.  I quoted it in my post on medieval terms of endearment, because it's packed to bursting with adoring epithets for Christ: 'my heart's love, my heart's delight', 'my heart's light', 'my soul's food', 'my heart's cure', 'my heart's gleam, brighter than the sun's beam' - you get the idea.  One rhyme per stanza makes the poem nice and pacy, and the effect is really very sweet (and sweet is one of this poet's favourite words - probably inspired by the popularity of 'Jesu dulcis memoria'.)

Adoring Christ, from Haddon Hall

Suete Jhesu, king of blysse,
Myn huerte love, min huerte lisse,
Thou art suete myd y-wisse,
Wo is him that the shal misse!

[Sweet Jesu, king of bliss, my heart's love, my heart's delight! Thou are indeed sweet; alas for him who loses thee!]

Suete Jhesu, min huerte lyht,
Thou art day with-oute nyht,
Thou yeve me streinthe ant eke myht,
Forte lovien the a-ryht.

[Sweet Jesu, my heart's light, thou art day without a night! Thou givest me strength, and also the might to love thee as I ought rightly to do.]

Suete Jhesu, min huerte bote,
In myn huerte thou sete a rote
Of thi love, that is so swote,
Ant lene that hit springe mote.

[Sweet Jesu, my heart's remedy! In my heart set thou a root of thy love, which is so sweet, and grant that it may grow.]

Suete Jhesu, min huerte gleem,
Bryhtore then the sonne beem,
Y-bore thou were in Bedleheem,
Thou make me here thi suete dreem.

[Sweet Jesu, my heart's gleam, brighter than the sunbeam! Thou wast born in Bethlehem; make me to hear thy sweet melody.]

Suete Jhesu, thi love is suete,
Wo is him that the shall lete!
Tharefore me shulden ofte the grete,
With salte teres ant eye wepe.

[Sweet Jesu, thy love is sweet; alas for him who keeps thee away! Therefore we ought often to cry to thee, with salt tears and weeping eyes.]

Suete Jhesu, kyng of londe,
Thou make me fer understonde,
That min herte mote fonde,
Hou suete bueth thi love bonde.

[Sweet Jesu, king of all lands, make me to understand deeply, so that my heart may prove how sweet are the bonds of thy love.]

Swete Jhesu, loverd myn,
My lyf, myn huerte, al is thin,
Undo myn herte ant liht ther-yn,
Ant wite me from fendes engyn.

[Sweet Jesu, my lord, my life, my heart, all is thine! Unlock my heart and alight within, and save me from the fiends' attacks.]

Suete Jhesu, my soule fode,
Thin werkes bueth bo suete ant gode,
Thou bohtest me upon the rode.
For me thou sheddest thi blode.

[Sweet Jesu, my soul's food, thy works are both sweet and good. Thou hast bought me upon the rood; for me thou hast shed thy blood.]

Suete Jhesu, me reoweth sore,
Gultes that y ha wrotht yore;
Tharefore y bidde thin mylse ant ore,
Merci, lord, ynul na more!

[Sweet Jesu, it grieves me sorely to think of all the sins I have committed, and so I pray for thy clemency and pardon. Have mercy, Lord, I will never do so again!]

Suete Jhesu, loverd God,
Thou me bohtest with thi blod,
Out of thin huerte orn the flod,
Thi moder hit seh that the by stod.

[Sweet Jesu, Lord God, thou hast bought me with thy blood: out from thy heart ran the flood, and thy mother saw it who beside thee stood.]

Suete Jhesu, bryht ant shene,
Y preye the thou here my bene,
Thourh ernding of the hevene quene,
That my bone be nou sene.

[Sweet Jesu, bright and clear, I pray that thou hear my prayer; through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven may my petition now be granted.]

Suete Jhesu, berne best,
With ich hope habbe rest,
Whether y be south other west,
The help of the be me nest!

[Sweet Jesu, best of men, with thee I hope to have rest. Wherever I may be, south or west, may thy help be ever nearest to me!]

Suete Jhesu, wel may him be,
That the may in blisse se!
After mi soule let aungles te,
For me ne gladieth gome ne gle.

[Sweet Jesu, well is it for him who may contemplate thee in bliss. May angels come for my soul, for neither game nor glee delights me now.]

Suete Jhesu, hevene kyng,
Feir ant best of alle thyng.
Thou bring me of this longyng,
Ant come to the at myn endyng.

[Sweet Jesu, king of heaven, fairest and best of all things, bring me out of this longing desire, so that I may come to thee at my ending.]

Suete Jhesu, al folkes reed,
Graunte ous er we buen ded
The under-fonge in fourme of bred,
Ant seththe to heovene thou us led.

[Sweet Jesu, guider of all people, grant to us, before we die, to receive thee in the form of bread, and afterwards lead us to heaven.]


Heliopause said...

Thank you for opening up to us this exquisite lyric!

(and 'sweet' can be horribly misused as a word, but truly sometimes it is the absolutely right word for a perception/experience of that heart's light, day without night.)

Clerk of Oxford said...

Yes, I think it works very well in this poem - there's something almost ruminative about the way the poem dwells on that word and applies it to successive different experiences. It could easily come across as lazy or hackneyed, but it really doesn't here.